About this article

Read time:

4 minutes

Category:

Uncategorized

Using storytelling to make a B2B brand relevant and engaging to customers right across the customer lifecycle.

Will Stone has spent the past 20+ years amassing possibly the most diverse experiences as a PR person. From training as a journalist and then working the local news scene in Preston, to jobs in PR agencies, academia, and local government, then onto comms leadership for a global manufacturer. Today he’s heading up marketing at TechSkills.org.

One thing has underpinned Will’s approach to each role – and that thing is storytelling. We caught up with him to ask why he sees storytelling as so important to B2B marketing.

So Will, in a nutshell, what do you think is the secret to effective B2B storytelling?

You need to know your audience and know the industry you work in. Being inquisitive is crucial – don’t just take things at face value. That comes down to being investigative and finding out the ‘how’ and ‘why’ in things. To do this you need to be able to build strong relationships and engage in conversation. That’s how you find out the little facts that lead to compelling stories.

On the audience part, engage with the audience you’re telling stories for, and walk in the customers’ shoes. Again this comes from talking to audiences or to those who know them well. What is the sales team’s view of customer needs for example?

Finally you need to explore different angles. So often, PR is treated like a checklist of “we’ve got to get the story out”.  This approach isn’t going to get the best value of out any B2B PR agency. People often see PR just as good news, but stories are far more useful than that. They can help a brand rise from a crisis, or become more ‘human’, or shine a different light on a situation. As a B2B PR person you must be a facilitator and curator as well as a storyteller.

What skills do you need to get the interesting storylines?

Your own communication and conversational skills are crucial in gaining the confidence and trust of people to get them to share. This is in much the same way as a journalist would when looking to extract information that people don’t really want to give. Obviously in B2B PR you’re not seeking to sensationalise or expose anyone but the same principles apply. After doing media training for a client a few years back and using those journalistic techniques to try and extract ‘answers’, my client commented on how ‘beguiling’ the approach was; drawing the spokesperson in and making them feel trusted before planting the killer question and catching them off guard. While the latter isn’t part of B2B storytelling, its still important to earn trust and get people talking, rather than asking straight questions.

What kind of B2B stories excite you personally, and why?

I love the journey from telling the story to seeing the impact it creates. Whether it’s a human interest story, uncovering unknown information that matters to people, or helping a leader to drive through change, what excites me most is seeing the cause and effect. Again, too often PR is just seen as noise or increasing brand mentions, but real stories can be applied to specific business goals and objectives.

Why do you think storytelling is so important in B2B brand engagement?

Because it humanises the brand. Businesses are ultimately about people and stories are the means of bringing those people and their role in the business to the fore. This creates the human connection with the audience brands yearn for. In terms of the pandemic and its impact on physical meetings, human storytelling has become more important as a way of staying connected while the experiential side of marketing has suffered more. I’ve always tried to create ‘conversations’ through story content. I follow and rate specific brands and organisations based on the stories they tell and their ability to gift me some added value through this

How much does the customer journey impact the type of story you tell?

It is both a help and a hindrance. Marketers are rightly obsessed with the customer journey and understanding what messages and content are important to audiences at different stages of the process. This gives storytelling a focus, ensuring it is applied to customer journey goals. However, sometimes stories just need to be told. They don’t need to fit into a marketing matrix to have value. Its not always about directly measuring the benefit – more, the cumulative effect on the brand and its personality.

How do you go about building storytelling into successful content marketing strategy?

Sometimes its tricky. There’s a trend for data driven marketing and KPIs right now and its not always easy to see how a creative story can fit. So much B2B marketing content is contrived to serve a specific purpose or digital marketing requirement, but in doing so it has limitations. It delivers on click throughs or shares, or lead intelligence, but does it deliver on sentiment and belief, or long term brand impact? I see storytelling as being the glue surrounding more direct marketing activities. Sometimes it’s less ‘trackable’ in the short term, but brands that want to be around for the long term need to think long term! Customer journeys may look linear in marketing analysis but they never are in reality – so you need stories to help keep those wavering relationships on track.

Struggling to measure success and prove ROI from your B2B PR and marketing campaigns?

Click here to see what you need to consider when setting up a campaign.

What challenges do you think B2B marketers face in terms of storytelling?

The combination of less and less ‘slack’ within marketing budgets and the constant demand for measurable results is in danger of stifling story creativity. The net effect of this is weaker stories facing stiffer competition for recognition. We’re seeing AI being applied to the creative process too – and it will get cleverer. However, there’s a big part of storytelling that is about consciousness. It isn’t just about what information the source gives and how they articulate that; it’s also about how the recipient or messenger (i.e. the PR person or journalist) interprets and uses that material. Both sides are personal and are what creates ‘unique’ stories

Can you tell us about one story you developed that you felt passionate about?

So much B2B storytelling is focused on the business or external brand but my proudest moment was using storytelling to support a CSR and wellbeing initiative a previous employer set up. The wellbeing scheme was to encourage employees from management to shop floor to work together to improve health through a series of challenges. One guy lost serious weight as a result. Another person overcame adversity following the loss of their child. We used video to tell these candid stories and show how the scheme had helped people. There were some difficult questions but not only did this help the individuals to tell their own side of things, it encouraged participation and supported the corporate brand too

If you had one piece of storytelling advice for B2B marketers what would it be (one sentence)?

Get your hands dirty! Get under the skin of the subject matter and don’t be afraid to ask difficult or challenging questions, while always keeping the audience in mind.

About this article

Read time:

4 minutes

Category:

Uncategorized

Do tech companies need PR?

Is traditional media going to become a relic of the past?

Browse more blog posts

Posted on
byJames Weaver
In today’s fast-paced and consistently evolving world of technology, innovation is key to stay ahead of the competition. While breakthrough products and next-generation solutions are fundamentally crucial, the importance of public relations (PR) for the tech industry should not be underestimated. Here, we explore the reasons why tech companies, both innovative start-ups or big tech, need PR and how it...
Posted on
byJames Weaver
Since the dawn of the 21st century, the tech industry has surged and evolved through countless groundbreaking innovations. But in the ongoing pursuit of digital transformation, layoffs in the sector have become an unwelcome trend. We saw it in the aftermath of the pandemic with the industry increasing its layoffs by 649% in 2022, which is the highest since the...
Posted on
byJames Bentley
Things change quickly in the world of B2B marketing, so it’s vital to be ahead of the curve. 2024 will bring with it new challenges and opportunities, so here are five incredible B2B marketing strategies which can make a significant impact for your business this year.  1. Personalised content marketing  Identifying and then producing content for specific target audiences has...
Posted on
byRebecca Brown
There is no denying that Josh Cole Bolland is an early starter. He started working as a freelance photographer and graphic designer aged just 16 and lived the dream, working with bands and musicians. He opened his own photographic studio just two years later and gradually integrated graphic design and video into the mix before he was joined in the...
Posted on
byJack Snell
I recently attended a Mental Health Workplace Responder course by St John’s Ambulance. It is now a part of my responsibility to help create awareness of mental health issues at Skout and to be a point of contact for my team. I have discussed my role with the team in great detail so they know what I’m here for, alongside...
Posted on
bySkout team
Why was PR your chosen career? Coming out of a job in television journalism, I knew that a career working with words was paramount. I moved between several roles in marketing and communications at companies of varying sizes but had always wanted to work in the cut and thrust of an agency where client requirements could be very different from...
Posted on
byRebecca Brown
Over the past few years, poetry has become one of our Skout traditions. As we get ready to close the office doors for Christmas, we thought we’d share with you a festive poem in celebration of all our brilliant clients written by our head of client services, Claire James. Enjoy!  
Posted on
byRob Skinner
Just over 31 years ago, in a speech to mark her 40th year of reign, The Queen told the world that 1992 had been her annus horribilis. To quote, “not a year on which I shall look back with undiluted pleasure.”  During that year, three of The Queen’s children had separated from their spouses, the royal family had been plagued...
Posted on
byHonor Williamson
We invite you to join in on our ‘Big B2B Christmas Quiz’ to test your knowledge of all things Christmas, PR and marketing, pop culture and more before we head into the New Year.   Answers at the end (no cheating, please!). And don’t forget to let us know your score.  Marketing & PR  Christmas  Technology  News  Pop Culture  Answers 
Posted on
byRebecca Brown
There aren’t many B2B marketers out there who don’t spend a lot of time thinking about content and how to best use it to engage their audiences. In fact, over 70% believe content is becoming increasingly important in driving overall marketing success. But just because it’s the right thing to do, doesn’t always mean it’s done right. Audiences are being...

Send us a message

Download The B2B business relationship report

The B2B relationship renaissance – did digital kill it? The importance of relationships throughout the customer buying journey. Please complete the form below and receive a download link via email.